An interesting saying with a generally misunderstood etymology. It has commonly come to mean to do something with reckless abandon or extreme courage, or perhaps a combination of both.

However, contrary to popular belief, going balls out is not something that is limited to those people who have the proper equipment to exhibit such testicular fortitude that this saying conjures images of in the vulgar argot.

It's true meaing is derived from the advent of the Watt's Governor, created in the late 18th century. This governor consisted of a pair of steel balls that were connected to a central vertical spindle by a pair of link arms. As the engine speed increased the spindle would rotate faster, causing the steel balls to move further and further away from the central arm. The point at which the balls were completely extended, the engine was said to be running balls out, meaning it was going as fast as it could.

So next time you decide to go balls out, just keep your shorts on, and give it your all.


Inspired by: http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/jay_leno_garage/4213088.html

Source and References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stationary_engine
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governor_%28device%29
  3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dadegroot/220904417/

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